Rod Petrie insists the Scottish FA has nothing to be embarrassed about following Uefa’s decision to impose sanctions on Rangers for sectarian chanting.
The SFA’s member clubs, and the SPFL, have resisted all calls to introduce strict liability – the protocols used by Uefa to charge the Ibrox club and issue partial stadium bans. Rangers will require to close a 3,000-seat section of their stadium for the Europa League visit of Feyenoord on 19 September, having been ordered to take this same action for the play-off tie against Legia Warsaw last month.
Ahead of his club’s trip to Ibrox last Sunday, Celtic manager Neil Lennon spoke of it being embarrassing that it needed an outside agency to deal with an issue that has permanently scarred Scottish football. Petrie, the SFA president, rejects such an assessment.
“Why would we be embarrassed?” he said. “It was a competition run by Uefa. Uefa, as the competition organiser, have dealt with the bad behaviour and unacceptable conduct, within the competition that they run. Equally, we look to the SPFL to take a similar approach and where there is unacceptable behaviour and things which are patently wrong and unacceptable to the vast majority of people, we expect the SPFL to be working to eradicate that and we are very happy to do our part in working along with them. This has to be a collaborative approach where we work together to try to make sure the environment is as safe and as positive as it can be. We are not embarrassed by that. We welcome the statements which came out of the club [Rangers] and welcome the statements which came forward from responsible fans groups. We want to work with them to improve things for everybody.”
Petrie concedes that Uefa’s actions can be a positive driver in ridding the Scottish game of a strain of anti-Irish Catholic expression that finds voice among the Rangers support. It was noticeable that following the punishment there was no evidence of such chanting in last week’s derby clash with Celtic.
“I think the events that took place, and obviously the punishment that’s been imposed by the organisation running the competition, has had an impact,” Petrie said. “It’s just another bit of momentum, another step along the way. I think there is a different attitude that what was acceptable in the past is not acceptable going forward.
“And hopefully that is now helping to ensure a sea-change within attitudes of people coming to games and that in turn makes it the environment the best it can be for all the good supporters who want to come along to games and bring their kids.”
SFA vice-president Mike Mulraney believes it is necessary to challenge the language often deployed by those who seek to downplay sectarianism.
“A big thing for me is getting rid of the term ’90 minute bigot’ because I don’t recognise such a thing. I only recognise someone who is bigoted, who exports that feeling for 90 minutes,” Mulraney said. “Ask themselves, would they do that in front of their kids in Boots, or anywhere on the high street in their normal time? And if they wouldn’t, then they should also ask themselves if that’s how they’d want others to see them?”